PALS certification everything you should know

PALS is an essential credential for healthcare providers. It is often a pre-employment requirement to work in specific fields, like paramedicine, nursing, and within some hospital settings. 

Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training is essential for healthcare employees and providers who respond to emergencies involving infants and children. But is it right for you?

It’s up to each employer to determine exactly which credential they might require, so always check with your local agency or your immediate supervisor to ensure that you take the right course. However, PALS certification is ideal for personnel who:

  • Respond to emergencies involving children
  • Provide emergency medicine to neonates, infants, or adolescents
  • Work in intensive or critical care units where children and infants are patients

If you’re interested in PALS training, keep reading to find out all you need to know about this advanced training for treating pediatric patients. 

PALS: Course Contents

In a PALS course, you will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of pediatric life-threatening medical conditions. You’ll also learn the proper assessment techniques required to remain vigilant while treating the smallest patients, as their medical presentation may appear quite different than that of an adult. 

While different companies and course sponsors have different versions of PALS, the focus of the training is usually on the healthcare provider’s treatment and care of pediatric life-threatening emergencies like:

  • Sepsis and other forms of shock
  • Cardiac emergencies
  • Respiratory distress, including Newborn Respiratory Distress (RDS)
  • Cardiac and respiratory arrest

Plus, there is often a part of the course devoted to understanding the best ways to care for a pediatric patient in the aftermath of resuscitation efforts. If a patient is in an arrest and providers achieve Return Of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC), pediatrics require specialized aftercare as part of an effort to achieve a positive outcome.

Should I Take a PALS Class?

PALS certification is an excellent credential for anyone working with pediatric populations in a medical setting. And, for some healthcare providers, it might be a requirement to work. But, while this course prepares healthcare workers for handling a wide variety of pediatric emergencies, not every PALS course is the same. 

You must ensure that you are eligible to take the PALS course. Most courses are not for the general public. The typical prerequisite is baseline training as an EMT, nurse, or another healthcare worker. You cannot take a Pediatric Advanced Life Support class without possessing a Basic Life Support (BLS) credential. 

So, if you meet the prerequisite requirements and you’ll be working in a field where you handle pediatric medical patients, you should learn all you can and consider signing up for a PALS class. 

Blended Learning Options

Many institutions offer online training as part of a PALS class. However, most accredited, legitimate PALS classes require some aspect of hands-on testing. 

It’s essential to make sure that the class you take matches the requirements given by your employer. For example, if you take a 100% online class with no skills assessments by an instructor, the class might not meet the threshold of what your job mandates. 

That said, blended learning options exist. You will typically enroll online and complete your educational coursework at your own pace. Some courses start with an assessment of your knowledge, making it easier to streamline the material for experienced providers. Then, you’ll take tests online, demonstrating your proficiency and understanding of the materials. 

For the best PALS courses and the ones you often need for employment, you will contact a local instructor who will meet with you for an assessment and testing of your hands-on skills. 

Classroom Training

PALS classroom training used to be the only method of instruction. Now, many PALS classes offer a blended learning module, where the didactic learning takes place online at your own pace. But, there are still some training centers that offer a completely classroom-based PALS curriculum. This training may be best for new providers or those taking a PALS course for the first time. 

High-quality PALS classes all feature classroom training and skills-testing, intending to improve outcomes for pediatric patients. You should expect a strong emphasis on using individual skills and combining them with efficient team dynamics. PALS certification courses should send you home with the skills to intervene in various pediatric medical emergencies.

PALS: How To Enroll

Enrolling in a PALS class typically starts with understanding exactly which class you need to take. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association are industry leaders in the field of medical education classes. Accordingly, their credentials are often the preference for hospitals, EMS agencies, health departments, and the like. 

But, more and more options exist. With the explosion of online offerings, it’s up to you to make sure that the course you find meets the requirements you need. So, it’s probably a good idea to check carefully with your employer or prospective employer to make sure the one you’re looking at will be accepted. 

Even classroom-based training usually starts with creating an online account. This way, you can receive preliminary information, emails, and even some learning modules online. So, it’s usually just a matter of creating an account, paying your tuition, and taking the class. 

Some classes provide an online textbook for you to study from, even if the course is in-person. Other classes may ask you to purchase study materials independently, but the shift to online and hybrid education models during COVID-19 is here to stay. 

Completing PALS: Get Your Card and Certificate

At the conclusion of the class, and after you’ve passed all required tests and skills checks, you will receive an eCard via email. This eCard is easy to download for your records, and it’s ideal for sharing with your employer. Plus, you can print it out and carry a copy of it with you, as some agencies require you to do so. 

If you take portions of the class online, you will likely receive a certificate online. That certificate isn’t necessarily the full credential. It may act as a ‘passport’ to a hands-on skills assessment, where an instructor will test your knowledge and practical skills. 

Make sure you understand all the details required for completing the learning modules, the hands-on testing, and how to achieve certification documentation. This will help you plan both for the class itself and your successful completion of its requirements. 

Plus, you must know how to demonstrate your new qualification to a potential employer. For example, if your job requires an eCard from a particular course sponsor, you should make sure to take the right course and pay the tuition and fees to receive all the documentation you need. 

Using PALS Skills

For prehospital healthcare workers like EMTs and paramedics, PALS is essential for treating the most emergent pediatric patients. But, there are other jobs where having a PALS certificate is a requirement or an asset. Once you have your credential, it’s up to you to decide how to use your training. 

The design of a typical PALS course gears it toward a variety of professional or volunteer healthcare workers who will, in the course of their duties, assess and manage the care of pediatric patients. 

So, whether you’re working in a hospital, clinic, or out-of-hospital scenario, you may benefit from PALS training. 

PALS training is particularly relevant for:

  • Paramedics 
  • EMTs
  • Nurses
  • Nurse practitioners 
  • Nursing assistants
  • Physicians

Benefits of PALS Training

PALS training does a lot more than opening a potential employment door. By learning how to assess pediatric patients, you’ll be better prepared to recognize the signs and symptoms of emergent conditions. This training in clinical and logical assessment algorithms gives a better chance to make early interventions that can help prevent a crisis. 

Since adults and children present quite differently in a clinical sense, mastering PALS is essential to learning to treat patients. The lessons you learn in a PALS course translate directly into enhanced skills, greater awareness, and potentially better outcomes for your patients. 

The skills you will take away include:

  • Prompt and rapid recognition of symptoms
  • Understanding the interventions required to prevent cardiac arrest in pediatric patients
  • Using fundamental techniques and a systematic approach to pediatric assessment
  • Algorithmic approach through an initial impression, primary and secondary assessments, and diagnostic tests
  • Prioritizing interventions appropriately
  • Maintaining team dynamics through effective communication 
  • How to approach post-resuscitation management 
  • Advanced high-quality and effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Respiratory management and the application of appropriate cardiorespiratory monitoring like nasal capnography and SPO2
  • Treating pediatric cardiac arrhythmias appropriately
  • The timely and proper administration of fluid and medications 

PALS Certification: Conclusion

PALS training and certification are fundamental building blocks for being an effective healthcare provider to the tiniest patients. Since attaining this certification is often a pre-employment requirement and caring for pediatric patients is almost always difficult, make sure to perform your due diligence before selecting a course. 

Once you understand the requirements, don’t hesitate to start your journey to being a better provider. Sign up for PALS certification today

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